Moviegoers who want a seat at a blockbuster’s opening weekend more and more need to buy their tickets long before show time. Increasingly, that has led to a starring role for advance ticket sellers such as L.A.’s Fandango Inc.
Fandango’s sales this summer outpaced last summer by 26 percent, the company announced last week. In addition to the audience’s desire for advance seating, driving the growth was a deal with AMC Entertainment Inc. that increased by 18 percent the number of screens for which Fandango sells tickets.
Another noteworthy trend: Fandango is selling more tickets through cell phones. Sales through its mobile site and app increased 116 percent from last year and are now one-third of its business.
This growth comes even as movie ticket sales slumped 5 percent below last summer.
Executives at Fandango said younger moviegoers like the freedom of either buying tickets far in advance or on the way to the theater. Above all, they hate waiting in line.
“The Fandango app is a good fit for being able to go to movies on the go, and to make your decisions closer to show time,” said Jessica Yi, chief product officer at Fandango. “Many more people have a digital lifestyle now, and we’re a part of that.”
Fandango was founded in 2000 and acquired seven years later by Philadelphia telecom giant Comcast Corp. The company now has 100 employees at its West Los Angeles headquarters. It launched its iPhone app in 2009 and later released one for Android and other platforms. About 26 million moviegoers have downloaded Fandango’s app. Its competitor, MovieTickets.com Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla., rolled out its app in 2010 and has had 2 million downloads since then.
People can buy Fandango tickets with credit cards or through Paypal. Ticket prices are the same as at the box office but the online ticket sellers add a fee – usually $1.25 a ticket. Fandango and Movietickets.com also make money through advertising.
In January, Fandango added more than 3,000 screens across the country when AMC Entertainment in Kansas City, Mo., switched from MovieTickets.com to Fandango. In April, Movietickets.com sued AMC for breach of contract; the case is still being litigated. With the addition of AMC, Fandango does online ticketing for nearly 20,000 screens in the United States, while Movietickets.com has about half that number. Fandango doesn’t have any international deals, while Movietickets has about 4,000 screens abroad.
Tickets for some movies can be purchased up to six months before their release date. In the summer, as moviegoers clamor for a guaranteed seat, a highly anticipated movie can often sell out entirely through advance online sales.
In March, Fandango reported its ticket sales accounted for nearly a quarter of the $155 million opening weekend domestic gross for “Hunger Games.” About 42 percent of its ticket sales for this summer’s breakout hit “Avengers” went through its mobile platforms – a record for the company.
Fans of these films want to see them on opening weekend, and to do that, tickets must be purchased early.
“When movie studios create a frenzy, Fandango fits in perfectly because people worry about whether they’re going to get into the show,” said Phil Contrino, editor at the Beverly Hills office of Boxoffice.com, a New York movie tracking site. “Hollywood’s reliance on big summer movies puts Fandango and Movietickets.com in a good position for the future.”
Advance tickets, however, remain a small part of box office totals. That’s because customers still tend to avoid the fee by buying at the theater, particularly in less populated areas and for show times that are not likely to sell out.
Joel Cohen, chief executive at MovieTickets.com said his company sells just below 10 percent of tickets at his partner theaters. Fandango declined to release its percentage.
Both Fandango and Movietickets.com have rolled out paperless ticketing in the past few years to try to raise their share of box office sales. Moviegoers can buy tickets through the app and scan their phones at the ticket taker’s booth. Fandango has 2,600 screens that have paperless ticketing and plans to reach 4,000 by the end of the year.
Contrino of Boxoffice.com said that mobile app sales of movie tickets are poised for growth.
“People spend so much time looking at their phones and thinking about their phones, if you can engage them on there you’re more likely to make a sale,” Contrino said. “Buying a movie ticket now is more of a reflex. It’s more of a snap decision.”
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